Though she has the healthy, good looks of a model or actress, 45-year-old Lockey Maisonneuve of Cranford will tell you that she never really thought of herself as especially pretty or beautiful, until she survived Stage III breast cancer and found a strength that has made her feel a sense of beauty that goes far beyond her physical appearance.
Maisonneuve, has now made it her mission to share this feeling of strength and beauty with other breast cancer survivors through a special exercise program called ‘Moving On’ that she developed combining her experience as a personal trainer and a cancer survivor who has moved beyond the toughest year of her life.
She is a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Association of Sports Medicine and Cancer Exercise Specialist through the Cancer Exercise Training Institute. She also serves on the Community Advisory Board for the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Overlook Hospital.
Maisonneuve demonstrated her exercise program recently at a Breast Cancer Support Group held at the RWJ Rahway Fitness & Wellness Center
The support group is one of many wellness programs coordinated through Robert Wood Johnson Hospital Community Education in Rahway.
The exercises include: neck and shoulder rolls, head turns, and other movements which she has named “The Monkey Stretch,” “The Butterfly” and the “Vaudeville.”
“Most women who have undergone radiation and surgery are afraid to move because everything feels different, but the reality is, if you don’t start to move your body again and use it, you will never feel better,” said Maisonneuve as she addressed the support group.
Members of the support group discussed the fact that physical therapy after breast cancer treatment and surgery is not necessarily standard practice; rather it depends on whether the treating doctor writes a prescription for physical therapy.
Maisonneuve told the group that the exercises, when practiced daily, will yield surprising results.
“You will begin to feel stronger, and you will increase your range of motion and that is very empowering,” said Maisonneuve.
Through a journey that began like a scene from a Lifetime movie, Maisonneuve said she has found strength, and a passion for helping others.
“I just want to help encourage other women and assure them that they can get through this experience, and I want to help them move on by helping them get their bodies strong and regain their flexibility,” said Maisonneuve.
In August of 2006, Maisonneuve underwent a sonogram that resulted in devastating news.
“I was technically diagnosed in the reception area of the imaging center. I went in for the sonogram, they put the gel on me and began to conduct the test. The technician then walked out of the room, quickly came back in and told me to get dressed and to go home and call my doctor,” said Maisonneuve.
When Maisonneuve walked out into the reception area, she said several technicians were huddled together examining a film. She heard someone say, “Here she comes.”
“They acted like children who had been caught doing something wrong. I then asked, what is going on? Could you please tell me what’s going on?”
Maisonneuve said, in front of a room full of people, the technician who had performed the sonogram said to her, “Honey, you’ve got cancer.”
Maisonneuve was in shock. They again told her to go home and call her doctor.
“I went outside and cried for 20 minutes. Then I called my closest friend in the world and then I felt like I was really going to break down because suddenly it was very real,” she said.
She said her next thought was, “After everything I’ve been through in my life, I can’t believe I’m going to die this way.”
Despite the initial shock and moment of despair, her thoughts quickly moved toward survival.
“Something took over. I remembered thinking, I have got to get through this because I have two children to raise,” said Maisonneuve.
After that she said she was simply focused on getting the cancer out of her body as quickly as possible.
During the next year she would undergo radiation, chemotherapy, a radical mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.
She attributes her successful recovery to the team of doctors from Overlook Hospital that included her surgeon Dr. Dianna Addis, the oncologist Dr. Bonnie Guerin, and the plastic surgeon Dr. James Gardener.
It was Dr. Addis who told Maisonneuve at the time of her diagnosis that if it weren’t for the advances made in the last four or five years, the very aggressive Stage III breast Cancer would have been considered a terminal illness.
“I remember she said to me, ‘This is going to be an ugly year for you. It’s going to be an ugly bump in the road.’ But I knew at that moment that I was going to survive,” said Maisonneuve.
She said there were only two moments in her year of treatment when she really lost it.
The first time was when she was about to begin chemotherapy and the technician was about to insert the port through which the medicine would be administered.
“I didn’t want my husband to accompany me, I felt like I had to do this on my own. The nurse was about to insert the port and suddenly the reality that I was about to go through chemotherapy hit me,” she said.
The nurse told her not to worry, and that she herself had been through breast cancer and that she was fine, and Maisonneuve was going to be fine.
“It was at that point I very politely said, thank you very much and then I said could you excuse me for a minute and I walked into the bathroom and began to cry hysterically. All I could think of is – I can’t believe this is happening to me. I can’t believe that my body gave out on me and I can’t rely on it anymore.”
Then, as quickly as the emotional storm had appeared, it disappeared.
“I then walked back into the room. I was calm. The nurse said, 'are you ready'? And I said, yes I’m ready.”
The second time Maisonneuve lost it was when she became so frustrated because she disliked the wig she was wearing and she came home one night and actually beat the wig up.
“I don’t know what it was exactly. It was a perfectly fine wig. But suddenly that wig became a symbol that I wasn’t who I used to be. It became a symbol that something was wrong. I called it the ‘dead cat', so I beat it up,” said Maisonneuve.
She said from that point on she never wore the wig again.
“I never really felt pretty until the last two years of my life. I always found fault with myself. My hair was not right. There was always something out of place. Now I think feel more attractive because I am more appreciative of what I do have and I’ve proven to myself that I’m a strong person,” said Maisonneuve.
In addition to working as a personal trainer and raising two children, Maisonneuve is committed to teaching her exercise program to as many women as possible.
“If I could do anything I wanted, I would give as many seminars as possible and reach as many women as I can. I want to help women who are afraid to move their bodies feel good again, and truly help them to move on.”
Maisonneuve teaches at the YMCA in Berkeley Heights and Scotch Plains, and will begin teaching her program at the Summit Medical Group. For more information her Web site at: http://www.movingonfromcancer.com